Faith and Hope were born on the 8th of May to parents Renee Young and Simon Howie. The twins share one body and one skull, but have two faces and two brains, a rare condition called diprosopus. You can read their story here or view the Current Affairs video here. The rarity of their condition and the fact that they have thus far survived to be seven days old has caused various media outlets and people to give them the title of ‘miracle twins’. But it seems that many disagree. Comments on the various news stories range from supportive and encouraging to harsh and judgmental. Numerous commenters indicated that they thought the couple should have aborted Faith and Hope once the prenatal diagnosis was made. To give some examples from the story linked above:
“If these parents knew of the condition early on the pregnancy, why did they decide to carry the fetus to term? Is that not more inhumane than an abortion under this circumstance? There are no miracles. This/these babies will die.”
“They are not blessings. They are bad prenatal care. A sonogram could have seen this. Suffering is not okay.”
“I do believe the best thing for their babies would have been to terminate, as cruel as that sounds.”
“Why anyone would carry these to full term is byond [sic] me”
The more cynical comments on other reports expressed displeasure at the idea that taxpayer money would be spent on the care of the twins. Others worried about their future should they survive past infant-hood – many thought they would be regarded as freaks and never be able to lead anything approximating to a normal life.
To recap, we have rare conjoined twins with an uncertain future. They have been born to loving parents and, at present, appear to be comfortable and breathing without assistance, while being cared for in neonatal intensive care. I assume from the photographs that they are being fed via an orogastric tube and given intravenous fluids. Until they develop further, it will be impossible to know how the duplication of the brain has affected their neural functioning. All other systems appear to be functioning normally, as much as can be taken from the comment of the maternal-foetal medicine specialist quoted in the linked article.
They should be terminated to prevent suffering.
The diagnosis was made at 19 weeks gestation. At this stage, the unborn child has all the spino-thalamic connections necessary for sensing of pain. Abortion at this late stage would be by dilation and evacuation or prostaglandin-induced premature delivery, with or without foetal intracardiac lethal injection prior to induction. A dilation and extraction involves the unborn child being removed from the uterus in pieces, with each piece being torn from the body with forceps. A prostaglandin-induced abortion involves the death of the foetus either during labour or shortly afterwards. An intracardiac injection of digoxin or potassium chloride may be given, which causes the foetal heart to stop. The lack of oxygen delivery to the body causes the accumulation of lactic acid as the cells attempt to create energy using an alternative pathway, which has the potential to cause pain akin to that experienced in a heart attack. In fact, American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines on euthanasia of animals prohibit the use of potassium chloride injections without first administering a general anaesthetic.
I can only assume that the people making these suggestions are either unaware of the potential for foetal suffering during late-term abortion, or consider the foetus a lower-life form whose pain does not need to be taken into account – even though Australia enforces guidelines to protect adult and foetal animals from pain.
They should be terminated because the taxpayer shouldn’t have to pay for their lives
There’s a word for eliminating people who you don’t think belong in society; who have characteristics that you consider unacceptable. It’s called eugenics. Do I really need to explain what is wrong with determining the ‘worthiness’ of children to be born according to have much they will cost the taxpayer? Disability is not a criterion by which any decent human being should take into account when deciding how to value another. In fact, there should be no deciding taking place, because we all have equal value, no matter what we have or what we lack – no matter what we are capable of.
Are Faith and Hope a miracle or a mistake? You know what? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are human, and thus entitled to have their lives respected by the rest of the human race.
At 19 days of age, Faith and Hope passed away in hospital. For nearly three weeks, these girls were able to be loved and nurtured by their parents. No details are available at this point.